‘United will get run ragged by the German boys’
The coolest take of mine this week.
Getting smashed by OGS 5-0 is embarrassing. But look, that’s the reality of United, they have a lot of good players that on their night, can be absolutely devastating.
… poor Nagelsmann. That’s a real spanking. Another one of my hipster fantasies running into problems.
So, onto Arsenal.
We host Dundalk. It’s a dreamy story of a team that’s climbed the ranks with a coach that was teaching kids to play football in America not so long ago. What a day out they’re going to have.
We should beat them, but they’ll be high on life, so this will very much take on the vibe of an early-round FA Cup game. I’m praying for a win out here…
There’s a lot of misery around Arsenal and Arteta at the moment. Everyone needs to take a reality pill and get back on track with what the project is about.
This time last year, people were genuinely talking about Arsenal getting relegated. We were 12 points off 1st, and 4 points off 14th. There was no direction, the players looked uninterested, and things were about to get very, very bad for us.
We hired in a 38-year-old manager. He expertly steered us out of a hideous situation and stabilised the club. That was a huge task most thought he was incapable of.
His biggest mission has been to change the culture of the club, that takes time, especially when you can’t turn over large chunks of the squad that were badly recruited.
Arteta tasked himself with making us difficult the beat. He has achieved that. No one comes to Arsenal to roll us these days, you might think that’s no big deal, but we have literally been getting rolled by top teams for 10 years. We are good at defending. We have the second-best defence in the league and we rarely concede more than one goal. Shots against us have drastically reduced. Again, you might think that’s par the course, but it is within living memory that Watford had 32 attempts at our goal.
Part one of the job is on track. The foundation has been set. The next phase is about fixing the attack.
Here, we have to be realistic. Solving that problem with internal solutions, to the level we require, is unlikely to happen. We don’t have the attacking riches United, Liverpool, Spurs, Chelsea or City have… even Everton look like they have better-attacking options than we do.
We clearly lack a #10 or a modern #8 player. It isn’t one player either, it’s two. We don’t have players that thrive in the half-spaces. There’s no Hleb, Santi, Wilshere or Rosicky to make the magic happen. We’re currently relying on Saka adapting to that role, and that will be a huge ask. He’s more suited as a wide player.
Wide player-wise, there’s simply no world in which Arteta sanctions £72m for Pepe. He’s not playing well because he’s not that good. We hope based on his price tag, the reality is, if his name was Billy Smith and he was a youth player, we’d not be interested. Reiss Nelson is now the answer, but let’s be honest, he was struggling the break into Hoffenheim after a blistering start and we spent the summer trying to move him on. We love Gabriel, but it’s still a stretch to think he’s going to be a teenage saviour this season.
Then you look at the striking options. Auba through the middle isn’t an option because he can’t hold the ball up in the way we’d like. Lacazette isn’t right, and Eddie seems a way off ready. Fans are pumping Balogun?! That’s not right.
If we’re realistic, solving our attack is going to be very, very tough.
At the moment, our approach is to squeeze out chances to make our powerplays. The hope is that out of 4-5 good chances we create, we score one and batten down the hatches. This season, our form has been poor and we’re not taking our chances. Nothing has clicked and lady luck has covid.
You also have to accept that when you hire a young coach, they will make mistakes and misjudge situations. Arteta has a high ceiling, but he has to learn. We couldn’t afford to spend £15m on Poch, so we took a chance on potential. He will fumble, he will do odd things, but that’s a price worth paying, because when he gets it right, and he will, it’ll be worth the entrance fee.
‘SACK HIM’ is not analysis. It’s what stupid people who live in the moment say. Again, worth noting that the ‘best young coach in the world’, just had his arse handed to him by OGS. RB Leipzig is a very well assembled side deep into its development. They made the semi-finals of the Champions League last season. They are a good team, but bumps in the road are part of the journey when you bring in a young manager. Even Jose, with a far better squad than ours, tanked a 3-0 lead to West Ham.
I also find the perversion people have over William Saliba very, very odd. Arsenal are pretty good at defending. If we are not including a young player in our squad this season, there’s a good reason for it. The player had fitness issues last season, so we know there are problems there, because the Premier League is brutal. He can’t speak English, which is also tough to manage. He’s 19 years old, has just moved to a new country, and he’s dealing with horrendous personal problems. Do we think throwing a precocious talent into the first team, just because Dave on the internet saw two minutes of him on Youtube, is a good idea? Do we need to wreck him in front of millions to prove a point? 19-year-old centre backs at the highest level of the Premier League are a very, very, very rarely a thing. Arteta is protecting a player that has a very, very, very long career ahead of him. You are really struggling if your analysis of our problems right now is #FreeSaliba… but again, when things are not going well, any average idea is given oxygen.
Arteta will experiment. He is humble enough to admit when he’s wrong. He will develop his ideas. But you need to brace for the fact that the path to top 4 is not paved in goals, it’s brick walls and ruthless discipline… and the hope that January might bring a present or two.
Don’t lose faith. Don’t covet busted flushes that started with better tools. Keep the faith. This is the way. xx